Living Optimally: Part 1

This is part 1 in a series of articles intended to help you cultivate a lifestyle supportive of optimal health and performance. The aim is to simplify complex topics, but that’s not always possible. If you have questions, or want focused attention on your individual situation, let me know!

Purposeful Nutrition

Whether you want to look good, feel better, or perform at your peak athletic potential, the most significant factor you can control is your nutrition. The best fitness programming in the world will only have limited impact if it’s built on a crap diet. The question I hear most often as a Health Coach is what should I eat? On it’s own, the what to eat is important, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. I explore with my clients what I call purposeful nutrition: why are you eating, what are you eating, and how are you eating.

Why are you eating?

You have to eat to live. Problem solved, right? In today’s culture of (relative) abundance and convenience, we’ve lost touch with our why when it comes to nourishing our bodies. I challenge my clients to reclaim that level of mindfulness with regards to their nutrition. Am I fueling for the day, for an event, to lose body fat, to build muscle, to heal a broken digestive system, or to reduce inflammation? Am I eating because I’m bored, or because I’m hungry? The answers to these and other questions will help you navigate the next big topic.

What are you eating?

Most people are aware that if you eat a calorie dense diet against a backdrop of limited activity, you’ll gain weight. The inverse is also true, and comes with it’s own problems and benefits. But nutrition goes way beyond calories in and calories out. In a nutshell, your food choices should:

  1. Balance energy;
  2. Support health and healing;
  3. Be sustainable for self and environment.

Your food choices — at both the macro and micro level — have tremendous influence on your body, it’s various components and system. Choosing foods that will fuel your why is the goal. So, should you eat paleo, gluten free, high or low carb, ketogenic or vegetarian or vegan? Should I eat this way 100% of the time, or give myself some wiggle room? Working through your why and lining these up with your core values will influence your choices. Decision making around food doesn’t have to be difficult, but it should at least be informed. Working with a qualified health coach, nutritionist, or dietician can be incredibly helpful here.

How are you eating?

Bringing mindfulness back into the conversation, when you sit down to eat (if you sit down to eat), are you watching T.V., forgetting what it is that you’re even putting into your mouth, or are you focused on enjoying the meal? Are you chewing your food adequately, or swallowing it whole in a mad dash to get out the door? Are you making it a social event, engaging in conversation and taking your time, or is it just a boring, unimpressive thing you have to do?

Choosing high quality, nutrient dense foods is a great start, but how you eat your food has an impact on the value you derive from that food that go far beyond the calories in, calories out equation.

Purposeful nutrition is a platform for engagement with your body, giving it the nourishment it needs to look, feel, and perform better, and to power your efforts in the gym, on the field, at work, home, and elsewhere in life. If nutrition is one of those aspects of health that causes you confusion or stress, take some time to reflect on your why, what, and how, and see where that takes you.

Drink This!

Fast Facts

  • The combination of a lemon or lime and sea salt + water concoction first thing in the a.m., on an empty stomach, can improve digestion, nutrient absorption, liver detoxification, electrolyte balance, and hormonal function. It also provides a dose of vitamins, fiber, energy and hydration when you’re body needs it most, without causing a spike in blood sugar.
  • Mix and drink:
    1. FRESH juice of 1/2 to 1 whole lemon or lime
    2. 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of colorful sea salt (Pink Himalayan preferred)
    3. 12 – 16 oz **room temperature** filtered/spring water

My Morning Ritual

Nutritional advice can be overwhelming. With a ton of information flying at you from every direction, often contradictory, it’s no wonder it’s generally the last thing my clients really want to address. For that (and other) reasons, I prefer to find simple habits that are easy to implement, have huge value and impact, and overtime can build INTO a larger nutritional picture simply by crowding out the less savory options. Long-term success starts by changing small things first – baby steps. Let’s talk about one.

Here’s an easy ritual that packs a powerful nutritional punch, with many health benefits, which you can very quickly turn into a habit you love. Lemon juice, sea salt, and water. First thing in the morning – before you do or consume anything else.

Whether you consider yourself a morning person or not, we are typically in a state of high(er) self-control after we wake up and before we jump into the fray. This makes the morning a great time to bring some awareness (mindfulness) around our body, what it needs, and to start each day on the right path.

I have been following this simple protocol for years, and it’s become something I look forward to every morning.

Why Lemon Juice and Sea Salt?

Fresh Lemon (and lime) juice is a nutritional powerhouse. Containing more vitamin C than oranges, they also are high potassium and anti-oxidants, both of which are beneficial for overall health and combatting the stress of daily endeavors.

Additionally, lemon and lime juice acids are chemically similar to hydrochloric acid (HCl) which is the primary component of gastric (stomach) acid. This means they can aid digestion, and can even help the stomach produce more HCl. The benefit here is improved nutrient and vitamin absorption, as well as the destruction of food-borne pathogens.

Sea salt, specifically colorful salts like Pink Himalayan (my favorite), provide additional sodium and a dose of minerals that contribute to adrenal health, liver detoxification, hormonal balance, hydration, and more. They can also aid in the production of stomach acids in combination with the lemon/lime juice, further improving digestion, absorption, and protection.

Why First Thing?

Making this drink the first thing you do in the morning does a few things for us:

  1. It creates a pattern – or a ritual as I like to think of it – that gets the brain working towards making good choices ALL day.
  2. It stokes the digestion process, so our subsequent meals can be of better value. Eating nutrient packed foods overall is the goal, but if your digestion isn’t operating well, you are missing out on the full value of those foods.
  3. Drinking this on an empty stomach allows for full absorption. It’s best to wait at least 15 min. before eating or drinking anything else. I tend to drink this before I go to the gym in the morning and eat after my morning workout (more on that in another post).

The Recipe

This is a simple one. Mix the juice of 1/2 to 1 whole lemon or lime with 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of colorful sea salt in a full glass of ROOM TEMP. water. Drink and enjoy. Avoid cold water first thing in the morning as it can shock your system which restricts digestion.

I recommend starting with 1/2 lemon and 1/4 tsp. of sea salt until you get used to the taste. I find it really enjoyable, but your mileage may vary.

Add this simple ritual to your day for the next few months, and see how you feel! Does it help you kick-start your day? Do you enjoy or tolerate the drink or the process? Do you notice any changes in your energy levels throughout the day? I’d love to hear your experiences!